It's not hard to understand why the Obama Nation dislikes Sarah Palin. She's single-handedly pulled the old aviator out of his stall and given him a real chance of ruining what once looked like a cakewalk to the swearing-in ceremony. It's not difficult to understand why feminists hate Sarah Palin, since she's everything they claim to be and aren't, to say nothing of the fact that she opposes infanticide in all its forms. It's not much of a challenge to figure out why the media elite despise her, since she's eminently a normal, intelligent woman of the sort that everyone from Maine to Minnesota to New Mexico has known, carpooled with, and generally gotten along just fine; she isn't yet another pretentious Ivy League politician in front of whom bootlicking journalists from second-tier universities so enjoy fawning.
Liberals quite reasonably fear her because she is the most talented natural politician since Reagan who advocates positions diametrically opposed to theirs. Conservatives quite naturally love her because she shares their values, advocates their policies, and has done what every conservative has been yearning to do for years by smashing a metaphorical fist right into the sneering face of the collective mainstream media. I'm not a conservative and I've seldom voted Republican, but even I had a little spring in my step after seeing all the sad-puppy faces in the media after Palin's speech at the St. Paul convention.
What's rather more interesting is the way in which certain nominally conservative Republican commentators have reacted towards her. Charles Krauthammer, Ramesh Ponnuru, Jay Nordlinger, David Frum, Ben Stein, and others were all markedly less enthusiastic than most about the John McCain's choice of the vibrant Palin over the likes of the feeble Tim Pawlenty, the plastic Mitt Romney, the treacherous Joe Lieberman, and the thuggish Tom Ridge, and were quick to criticize his selection. Such criticisms have been muted somewhat in light of Palin's excellent speech at the convention and the exuberant embrace of her by the party's grass roots, but nevertheless, they reveal a particular idiosyncrasy of part of the so-called conservative commentariat.
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Since Palin's views on particular policies were largely unknown to me and there were rumors of her libertarian leanings, my first thought that was perhaps this distinct lack of enthusiasm for the Republican Party's first genuine political star since Ronald Reagan stemmed from the usual conflict between the Israel-first, pro-war part of the conservative commentariat and the America-first, anti-war Buchananite right. Indeed, the Jewish left even attempted to stir up this potential conflict by starting a public debate over whether Palin, as an evangelical Christian, was good for the Jews. However, it soon became apparent that Palin is the Israeli flag-flying sort of Christian Zionist quite common in evangelical circles – like my own church, as a matter of fact – with whom not even Abe Foxman and the Anti-Defamation League have any serious problems.
And as for her position on the war, her own son's deployment and her apparent belief that the Iraqi occupation is "a task from God" made it fairly clear that she isn't going to present any obstacles for those who intend to continue trying to spread democracy by force throughout the world.
So, what explains this hostility? Was it simply sour grapes from those who didn't see it coming? I don't think so, as for the most part, these particular pundits represent a good portion of the more intelligent and pragmatic – if often less principled – percentage of the conservative commentators. Most of them are Washington insiders and all of them understand The Narrative. According to The Narrative, the old Washington warhorse, usually a vice-president or a senator, is supposed to go down bravely to defeat at the hands of the innovative and exciting newcomer waving the flag of change; while Barack Obama is a senator, he isn't much of one, which is why he felt he needed an old Washington hand on the ticket to provide gravitas as well as a symbolic foil for his youthful energy. (Also, Michelle Obama told him that he'd have to take his stinky, snorey self to the couch in the Oval Office for the next eight years if he annoyed her by doing the smart thing and choosing Hillary.) In the eyes of those who know The Narrative, John McCain is supposed to be playing Bob Dole.
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But by selecting Sarah Palin, McCain once more played the maverick and began ad-libbing his lines instead of obediently reciting them word-for-word. This is offensive to those who know the script, moreover, the cabal of media quasi-conservatives aren't terribly happy about the prospect of having a real live Red America conservative at the fore of the party four years from now. They'd prefer a former liberal who's "seen the light," a Purple American like themselves who is politically Republican but culturally Democrat.
They really needn't worry. Based on what one acquaintance of Palin e-mailed me this weekend, they can quite reasonably have every expectation that if McCain-Palin is the winning combination in 2008, Sarah Palin will, like so many Republicans before her, grow considerably before she takes her turn at the helm of the party.